Treat @ TGIF

What better way to celebrate the game launch than going out to celebrate with drinks and food? It was one of those special occasions when the bosses were treating us minions.

I don’t know how we came to decide on TGIF (Thank God it’s Friday) but I am glad we did. We started off with drinks… one friend chose ‘The Ultimate Long Island Ice Tea’, while another took lemonade and gin, I on the other hand ordered a ‘Ultimate Strawberry Margarita’. Needless to say all the drinks were heavenly! Others were a little reserved and just went for chilled beer.

Next it was time for food and I given the task to order for everyone. Oh the delight when people trust your taste buds more than they do theirs. Opening the menu card the first thing that caught my eye was the Jack Daniels Burger. We had wanted to try it for a long time and when finally we were at TGIF, and no one was holding us back.

We ordered 3 JD burgers, one grilled chicken pizza and one chicken pepper steak. we were not touching anything veg which was being served at the other side of our table. That night we were hardcore non-vegetarians.

food61-ultimate_jack_daniels_burge

I wasn’t expecting the burger to be so huge! One look and I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish it off by myself. So very intelligently I divided the burger into 3 portions and served it to people who wanted to taste it. I was already full with the drinks and the other starters we had ordered earlier.

Later on the others ordered brownies but I did not want to ruin my taste of the burger so i declined their offer.

If you guys decide to go to TGIF ever, please do try the JD burger. I am sure it will satisly your appetite as well as your taste buds.

Lots of Love,
A.

A Step Up North: Himachal Pradesh, India

Himachal Pradesh

Another weekend and another trip. The last week has been immensely satisfying thanks to the unplanned trips we have been taking. This time it was Himachal Pradesh which is one of the northernmost states in India. It is surrounded by the Himalayas in the north. The trip started on Thursday midnight in 2 cars and with seven people. With just 2 drivers among us it was kinda tricky to drive for 12 hours at a stretch. We did take small break on random highway dhabas. All the way we kept listening to 90’s Bollywood music which were hilarious and we couldn’t believe we actually used to like them when we were kids. When night turned to morning we were set with our GoPro to take a time lapse which I will be editing very soon.

We had planned to go via Chandigarh, Punjab but then we found an alternative route which would take us lesser time so we took that. So driving through Mohali, which is also in Punjab we entered Himachal territory around 9. We were directly heading for Palampur which is called the tea capital of the north and which is also famous because it supplies the most number of men to the Indian Army. I have never been to the mountains before. And this was the Himalayas that I was going to, I couldn’t afford to lose one moment of the journey, so I planted myself on the front seat of the car to memorize anything and everything. They say the journey is more important than the destination and it has been my motto all through. The  snow covered mountains, the gushing water of the streams, the ravine beside the roads, the tiny villages scattered in the distance, I din’t miss anything. I couldn’t resist getting out of the car multiple times just to enjoy the view and in the process I became a pain in the ass for the others. But did I mind? Hell, no!

We reached Palampur around noon. One of our colleagues is from Palampur and his parents were helpful enough to let us crash there for the night. His mom cooked lunch for us, simple dal-rice and one sabzi (curry). It was delicious to say the least. I was literally licking my fingers after the meal. Sated and completely full, we then went to see the utterly beautiful town of Palampur. It is a small town and my friend had so many anecdotes to share of his childhood that it felt like we had grown up in Palampur itself. We went to see the tea-gardens of Palampur and then we went to the mountain streams which the ‘Pahadi’ (people from the mountains) call “Khud”. We trekked down a hill and reached the banks of the stream. I dipped a toe into the water to check the temperature and in a nano-second y toe was out of the water and 1 feet away. The water was chilled. I refused to go inside and people started coaxing me to try it out. I realized it would be worthless to come so far and not take a dip. Relenting I took a breath and just got in. Brrrrr!!! Cold, cold, cold! But I was already halfway in so I had to see what I had started. In I went. It was fun but extremely scary. You see, I do not know how to swim, so gritting my teeth I somehow managed to enjoy the cold water. Later though I was paying for it. Anyway, we returned from the “Khud”, changed and went out on foot to see the market place of Palampur. Walking on the roads of hill towns is pretty tiring. If you want to lose weight I would recommend you stay in one of these small towns in the mountains and walk. You will be fit in no time! So this night we were walking up and down the streets and trying to get used to the breath loss we were feeling every time we went uphill. We returned to my friend’s place, had dinner and hit the sack as we had an early day planned.


Khud "Mountain Stream"

We woke up around 5 AM to find out it was raining. The plans of trekking were kept on hold and we decided to just go to Mcleodganj via Dharamshala. Supposedly the place is famous for it’s monasteries and momos. For those who don’t know, momos are Tibetan delicacies that are similar to Chinese dimsums. By the time we reached Dharamshala, it had stopped raining. On reaching McLeodganj, we found the place filled with tourists. We had to go to Bhagsu, nearby in search of a parking space but even there we faced parking problems, so finally we decided to go to Dharamkot where on we decided to go up to the Golu temple. We parked our car near the temple, had our breakfast and started our trek to Triund. At first I had no idea how far we were going to trek. One of us had already been to Triund so he kept telling us that it would be a 4 hour trek and we would be following a trail. What he hadn’t mentioned was that we were heading for the peak of one of the mountains in the nearby ranges. We were on our way to 9500 ft above sea level.

For someone like me who has never been to the mountains, the easy trek can very easily turn out to be the most difficult thing you have ever done in your life. I was enjoying the first couple hours. It was not that tricky to traverse the rocky trail. But as we neared the peak I had almost given up. There are 3 check posts when you are trekking to Triund. After the third one I had dug my heels in. I wasn’t going any further. I couldn’t breath and my legs were shaking with all the effort I had put in. My friends encouraged me, saying I made it so far, why not a little more further. After a lot of pep talk I agreed and off we went again. By the time I was reaching the peak I had sworn to myself that I will never ever go trekking again.

All the agony, all the breathlessness was forgotten the moment I saw of the snow covered mountains at the peak. It was indeed a sight to behold. The grass was green and the wind was cool. It was refreshing and so peaceful. There were some campers and other trekkers who were already at the peak. Everyone was just sitting and staring at the beautiful snow covered mountain peaks. I who had only wanted to find some place to sit a couple minutes back was still standing mesmerized and utterly dumbfounded. I was so glad I went all the way up, so glad I had the good fortune to see something that was serene that I felt at peace with the world. Up there at 9500 ft above sea level, when one is far away from the city lights, traffic and crowds, one finds true peace. I found mine.

The View from Triund

After all the trek we were famished and fortunately there was a small dhaba there. We ordered Chai and Maggi (instant noodle) and went back to enjoying our surroundings. When the sun was nearing the horizon we set out on our way back. The return trip was comparatively easier on our legs and lungs. It was past dusk when we returned back to our cars and then we had to fight for parking space again at McLeodganj. So we decided to leave the car we had parked it in Dharamkot and then walk all the way down to Bhagsu. We went to the “firang” (foreign) areas in Bhagsu and found a place to crash for the night there. These are places where the locals only cater to the people from abroad. You won’t any Indian tourists in the vicinity. We were entertained because one of us had a friend who was living among them for sometime.

Completely exhausted we had dinner at this Thai restaurant which was also in the “firangi” (foreigner) area. The Thai chicken with green curry is a must try if you somehow find the place. For the love of God I can’t seem to remember the name of the restaurant. Anyway, we trekked a km or two to our accommodations and slept like dead people (no offence). Next morning I was up and about early. I went out for some fresh air and felt so much at peace. Later we had breakfast at a local roadside restaurant. We ordered an assortment of breakfasts- Indian, Spanish, English, American. After the scrumptious breakfast we returned to my friend’s place in Palampur. We had lunch there which consisted of authentic Himachal dishes- “Lasiyadhe” and “lomdu” which are essentially vegetables which are available mostly in the mountains. I have to say his mom is a terrific cook. As before I was almost licking my fingers clean.

It was time to leave for Delhi. We packed, said our goodbyes and thanks to my friend’s family and set out. The return trip was fun as this time we were driving adventurously. Listening to loud music and taking just one stop we drove all the way to Delhi. Hectic trip but we were back safe and sound.

Take a trip to the mountains and I bet you will love it.

Lots of Love,
A.

Fatehpur Sikri Dargah

I have visited quite a few old monuments in India but never have I been so disappointed with any of them as I was with this particular site. And when I say disappointed I do not say it because of the architecture but because of the way it is maintained. When we went to Agra last Sunday, we decided to check out Fatehpur Sikri too as it was some 20 or so kilometers away.

The first leg of the journey wasn’t bad. We enjoyed the ride as it stared pouring midway. But as we neared Fatehpur, the rains stopped and gradually everything started going downhill from there. Even before we had entered the city we were stopped by random men waving badges. We thought it was official by the way they flagged us down from the street. But as soon as the conversation started we realized they were guides trying to make money out of us. The thing was giving Rs 100/- wasn’t an issue, but the constant pestering was. The first one we fended off. Then after a few more minutes another turned up. We turned him down too. Just as we reached the Buland Darwaza, a guy on a motorbike, kept honking at us while following us for at least 5 minutes. Again thinking it might be important, we stopped. Our mistake.

He started off with “I am not a guide sirji. I am a representative of the Dargah. I am here to help you. I will show you around and get you entry without any tickets. No one will pester you. All you have to do is pay me Rs. 100/-”

Our first thought was, if he’s going to show us around and get us entry and charge money for that, doesn’t that make him a guide? What nonsense are we dealing with here? We told him we don’t need one, but he kept at it. Finally one of us had to talk to him rudely to make him leave. He looked at us as if we were making such a big mistake!

At the parking which was 1 km away from the monument, like other ones we had visited, we were stopped by another guide. All of us were starting to get annoyed. We ignored them and started looking for ricks to take us to the actual spot. There we encountered a child not more than 10yrs who wanted to be our guide. He was funny so we humored him.

The rickshaw driver told us we had to pay Rs.30 per person. We agreed on the one way ride and got in. When we reached the dargah the rickshaw guy told us to take his phone number, so that we would call him when we wanted to return. We told him we intended to walk back and not take a rickshaw. That adamant guy started arguing that we have to go by his rick otherwise he won’t take the money. Angrier now we slapped the money on his hand and left without looking back.

From outside, the moment looked nice enough. But on entering it we got to see the real picture. Even though we were not allowed to wear shoes inside, like we did in the Taj Mahal, interestingly we could take food inside. Weird. It was a market-place inside the monument and the premises was dirty with food littering the ground. By this time we were thoroughly  uninterested in the monument, but since we had made the trip, we decided to take a cursory look. The place was shabby to say the least.

The Dargah premises is basically a graveyard. We walked around a little and decided it wasn’t worth the trip. This place with its history and architecture could have been so beautiful yet it wasn’t. We left Fatehpur-Sikri sooner than we had planned.

Reading about it in the text-books I had imagined it to be somehow better. But my image of the place was shattered when I was forced to see the truth for myself. We did not even feel like taking picture there. I wouldn’t advice people to expect much from Fatehpur-Sikri Dargah. I know it has it’s fair share of history but be prepared to be attacked by guides who will end up ruining your mood.

Hope this helps.

Lots of Love.
A.

Taj Mahal and Agra Fort

Taj

On Sunday we got a chance to go visit the Taj Mahal. It is after all one of the 7 wonders of the world. Just for clarification there are two 7 Wonders of the World. Old and New. The Taj Mahal bears it’s distinct place in the new list.

The Taj Mahal stands proud and tall at the banks of the river, Yamuna in Agra, U.P. With all the mentions in text books and looking at it’s picture for years we were finally getting to visit it. We had initially planned to see the Taj Mahal in full-moon but due to some circumstances we couldn’t make the trip. For those who don’t know about it, the monument is open for public viewing once a month during full-moon. But you have to call ahead and book tickets for it 2 days prior to your visit. They say it’s a splendid view of the Taj, as it looks calm and pristine on the full-moon night. My next trip to Taj will be on a night like that.

We left early for Agra. It’s approximately 4 hrs from Delhi by road. There are a couple of highways that lead to Agra. But we took the Yamuna Expressway. And gosh! it is a delight to drive on. The tolls are more but they did a great job with it. We kept up an average speed of 120km/hr and it was exhilarating. We stopped for breakfast at a highway dhaba and then we were off again.

We reached Agra around 9:30 and it took us another 45 minutes to maneuver traffic to reach the Taj. Once there we decided not to take a guide. You will find a lot of animal driven carts there along with the newer electric rickshaws. They take the tourists to and from the  parking lot which is 1 km away from the Taj premises. There are gardens in and around the Taj where the mughals used to take evening strolls. It’s a refreshing sight after the traffic packed Agra roads.

A suggestion, it’s better to visit the Taj in winters. The heat was bearable but since the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum one has to go in without shoes. Walking on the white marble flooring heated due to the summer sun is like walking on a hot bed of coals. I would suggest to get shoe covers from the main gate so that you can wear them over your shoes. It serves two purposes, one you don’t have to remove your shoes and two your feet are saved from the agony of walking on hot marble.

Geared up with our Cameras we entered to see the “Monument of love”. It was without doubt beautiful. Just looking at it from a distance your get the feel of grandeur. We went close clicked pictures and enjoyed the view thoroughly. Once inside, photography is prohibited. So all you get to do is memorize the intricate work on the marble walls. And when I say intricate, i mean it. The main room is dark with just one lamp lighting it. The rest is illuminated by the marble windows. It gives you a feel of sacredness. You automatically lower your voice in respect.

We left the Taj and had lunch at one of the many restaurants lining the border of the premises. The food was good if not exceptional. Later we went to the Agra Fort which is like a replica of the Red Fort in Delhi. It is also considered a world heritage by UNESCO. The royal court was beautiful. The mughal emperors used to sit on their thrones and pass judgement and conducted royal business there. The place takes to back to those era when India was under the Mughal rule. We went up a flight of stairs and reached the top of the backyard of the building. The lawns inside are beautiful and one yearns to just sit there and relax like those mughal queens and princesses used to do.

You can spot the Taj mahal at a distance from the Agra Fort with the Yamuna flowing languidly beside it. A beacon of beauty and grandeur while having an aura of mourning, that’s the Taj Mahal for you.

Lots of Love.
A.

Karim’s, Jama Masjid, Delhi

Being a non-vegetarian and always being surrounded by other kindred spirits, we have a tendency to always keep a look out for good non-veg places wherever we go. It’s a pain for our very few vegetarian friends but being the minority that they are, I guess by now they have become used to our ways. Do keep in mind I have nothing against vegetarian food. In fact, a lot many times we decide on places which serve both veg and non-veg. Keeps the lot happy.

Anyway, this time when we went to visit Jama Masjid, we couldn’t on any accounts have missed this heaven for non-vegetarians; Karim’s. Almost everyone who has visited Jama Masjid and is a non-vegetarian recommends this place. It’s one of the oldest eating joints around that place.

It’s kind of confusing traversing the narrow lanes of Old Delhi. As we always do, we asked people for directions and after some 15 minutes or so we reached in front of this very narrow passage. It didn’t look like this place could fit the famous place we were looking for. With a frown on our face we entered the place and came out onto a courtyard like place where a lot of restaurants with the name Karim’s were strewn about. Inquiring about it we got to know that the whole courtyard or whatever you call a place like that, belonged to Karim’s and we could seat ourselves any place we liked. So we did.

The menu had quite a meal to offer. We went for Tandoori Raan which was out of our budget yet we didn’t care much. We rarely do when there’s good food involved. A minute waiting for food is the longest minute ever!

And then it was time. We could see the big plate coming towards our table. We had to catch ourselves from smiling like idiots. We do that quite a lot, foodies that we are. In the space of time the waiter had placed our plate on the table and left, we had already dug into it. We had knives, not the cutlery knives but real knives to cut the raan. We saw crowds of people thronging near our table to see what we had ordered. I guess it was a rare one. It’s a big piece of meat and it’s impossible for 2 people to finish it off.

Tandoori Raan

Tandoori Raan

Anyway we cut it and we devoured it in no time. We wanted to order biriyani after that but we were so full, we couldn’t. So we pledged we would go back there again just to try out biriyani. We couldn’t yet leave  though. Every meal has to end with a sweet dish. We saw kheer in the menu, so we ordered it. Surprisingly it wasn’t actually kheer but mix of firni and kheer that they had served us. We didn’t mind. As with the raan we finished it in no time. It was so delicious and the flavours were so well-balanced, we ordered another batch. Finally with our bellies full and our pockets a tiny bit lighter (thanks to the raan), we left the place with smiles on our faces.

It was worth it.

Kheer

Kheer

Venue: Karim Hotel, Jama masjid, Delhi.
Must Try: Kheer
Value for Money: 4/5
Ambiance & Cleanliness:  3.5 (on the scale of how I had expected the place to be)
Crowd: 4/5
Service: 4/5

Hope you find this interesting enough to visit this place when you come to Delhi next.

Lots of Love.
A.

A thing or two about me

Hello, Everyone!

This is my first post and this blog is going to be a big step towards my dream.

There are somethings a person wants to do in his lifetime. First, to explore the world; meet new people, document time as it passes by right in front of our eyes or just enjoy the cultures, the languages or food. Second, try out different cuisines; the subtle taste of that vintage wine, the rareness of the steak, the crunchiness of the Cesar salad, the texture of the crème brûlée. Third, to write a novel or an autobiography. Oh who doesn’t want to tell the world what their nifty minds could conjure up? Fourth, to make a film. A book has got to be followed up by a film, right? All good books have them adapted into films. And fifth, their very own a business, where they can order people about. There are so many more but alas! I can’t list them all. The crazy fun!

Now you might be wondering what all this has to do with me, eh? Good question but with a very obvious answer. I am predictable that ways. I want to do everything. I want to explore the world, eat the food, write that novel and turn it into a film. I want to be in the shoes of every person that has intrigued me. I want to know their story, I want to understand their perspectives on life.

Right at this very moment, my mind wanders into parts unknown. I have been there or maybe I haven’t. You might call me a dreamer, and I won’t negate that tag. All that matters to me, is that I live a life of NO regrets.

Thanks loads for bearing with me. I will be back with some interesting stuff for you guys to read.
Lots of love.
A.